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October 22, 2021

COVID-19 hospital horror – opening up and the dangers ahead

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Lung damage, brain and heart conditions, blood clots: the horrible truths of severe COVID.

The Problem

A hospital is not a health farm. For a start, the food has a terrible reputation. Seriously though, when life is on the brink, a hospital is the destination. Staff are trained and equipped to deal with a range of human mishaps, injuries and illnesses.

Healthy minded people see hospitals as a last resort, with good reason, because they are not without risk. Over the years, I have even heard people say, ‘I wouldn’t go there unless I was dying’. Cross-infection with antibiotic-resistant bacteria can occur, for example. Pain, trauma, loss, fear, powerlessness or medical incompetence make foreboding prospects. Anyone who needs acute hospital care has to surrender personal power.

If you do need to go to hospital, it’s a good idea to have a competent companion at the bedside, someone to hold a hand or advocate; to speak up if the patient is incapable. For example, if it gets frantic with other emergencies, a patient may be forgotten in a corner cubicle or left lying on a corridor trolley.

In the time of COVID-19

As if all that is not enough, the COVID-19 era has layered on a sense of weirdness. Staff have to confront an extra raft of protocols to prevent the spread of COVID Delta variant. This more contagious variant has radically raised the stakes. Its attack profile includes younger adults and even some kids. Protective clothing and other precautions can be intimidating to patients and be stressful and tiring for hospital staff. Under COVID rules, relatives and friends are frequently not allowed inside at all.

So, what can we expect as our society, businesses and travel open up, at the height of the pandemic, as planned for NSW? Government advisors reassure us that hospitals will gear up to cope with the expected increase in demand.

Another outlook comes from The Medical Journal of Australia, independent of the government. Its editor, Emeritus Professor Nick Talley has forecast ‘a tsunami of hospitalisations when Australia opens up on COVID restrictions’.

Patient in hospital with COVID-19. Photo Pordee Aomboom/Shutterstock

Code black

And the Australian Doctor Magazine has issued a warning. Professor Raina Macintyre and a panel of 48 pandemic experts, the Ozsage group from the Kirby Institute, stated that ‘hospitals could be swamped under the NSW Government’s “roadmap to freedom” policy’. They forecast that around Christmas, it will be code black, meaning full occupancy of intensive care. Warnings of ‘tsunamis’ and ‘swamping’ of the hospital system telegraph possible hospital conditions in the months ahead.

The usual mix of health problems is sort of forgotten in COVID task fixation. Add to this the raft of physical and mental illnesses, exacerbated by lockdown. For the ten thousand things that afflict humans, we will still need hospital services, but it’s hard to see how the system will continue providing quality service.

An answer…

Even though we are less than two years into this pandemic, unfolding knowledge provides some welcome reassurances. One happy surprise is that a fully vaccinated person is unlikely to become sick enough to require admission to hospital, specifically, not to need ventilation in intensive care.

As recently as of August 13, research from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US confirmed that vaccinated adults over 65 are 96 per cent less likely to require a ventilator and intensive care. An obverse finding is that the chance of death in unvaccinated people is greater by a factor of eleven.

A doctor’s job is not to save the world but to look to the individual interests of their patients. In this light, the best reason I can find for getting the vaccine is avoidance of the need for ventilator intervention.

Any person of advanced age, or with an underlying condition, who is sick enough with COVID to require ventilation is already in deep shit. From survivors’ stories, the outlook for a return to robust long-term health is far from rosy.

As SARS-CoV-2 is a respiratory disease; it predominantly attacks lung tissue, specifically the cilia.

We have to talk about intensive care

Let me take you on a Cook’s tour of a ventilator in intensive care unis (ICU) because, for me, it was a central issue in vaccination decisions. Years ago, I walked the floor of a busy ICU in London. I recall our nickname for this place – ‘the Expensive Scare Unit’.

The Ventilator was a cutting edge machine in that era ,before computers. Of course, technology has improved out of sight in the digital age, but the human machine is the same. The Ventilator does not work like a Thermomix in the kitchen with predictable results. Stories published by COVID survivors who have needed ventilation confirm that the road to recovery is unpredictable or long-term when this virus gets its claws in.

It works like this

The Ventilator takes over control of natural breathing. The essence of the treatment is an intimate joining via a tube in the patient’s larynx to the machine, which provides rhythmical positive pressure inflation of the lungs. A drug modelled on Curare, a tribal South American Indian arrow poison, is used routinely to paralyse the whole body, including the diaphragm muscle, to prevent the patient from fighting with the machine.

In everyday life, even the most committed couch potato naturally exercises this diaphragm for breathing, to stay alive. On a ventilator, the diaphragm cannot exercise, and it undergoes disuse atrophy very rapidly.

Survivors of ventilation need prolonged specialist physiotherapy rehabilitation for muscle wasting in the whole body. The longer the treatment, the more complex the recovery.

By the way, a side effect from positive pressure ventilation can include clotting in the lungs. Please don’t think I’m knocking the Ventilator because this treatment has preserved many lives. It gives nature time to catch up, for example, in cases of near drowning.

But even if politicians can deliver a thousand ventilators, each machine requires a team of highly expert operators and close supervision of an unconscious patient. Meanwhile, the stress of burnout syndrome under COVID conditions is decimating these skilled staff.

For those who feel that the vaccination jab is a danger or a Bill Gates conspiracy, spare a thought for the arrow poison alternative.

A prediction

On the eleventh of October, when Sydney comes out of lockdown, watch out for the stampede of bulls on fire galloping northwards. There is no time to vacillate over the vaccine, because they may be coming for you.

♦ Dr Who has written previously for The Echo and has had their credentials checked to confirm the expertise of opinion.

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    • Who would be “remunerating” the Echo? This IS happening/has happened in hospitals around the world in many countries, but not here in Australia, due to our government mandating heavy, long, unpopular lockdowns. Australia should be be spared the worst of it due to our high vaccination rates now (well over 90% first dose in Sydney hotspots now) reducing the spread/severity of COVID, just like the medicos said it would. Something that many in of the anti-vax people in our community REALLY need to think about. Maybe its all NOT a conspiracy? Maybe every major news organisation in the world is NOT in on it, maybe every government in the world is NOT in on it too. Maybe its just a natural virus, doing what viruses do and the medicos, elected officials and news reporters doing what they are all meant to do?

    • No one ends up in ICU with Covid 19 Rudra? Ventilators and their aftermath aren’t all that bad?
      Which bits are the fear porn?

  1. It’s a reality check – it may not get that bad but it will definitely get worse than it is now.
    No point in pretending to live in a bubble if that bubble has a hole the size of the pacific highway letting in the infection.

  2. Excellent insight into the difficult aspects of medical ventilators in use. The existence of a medical treatment does not mean the experience is easy, without its own risks or 100% successful. If two vaccinations mean you and all the rest of us are another step removed from severe covid infection and consequences, let’s all be grateful and vaccinate for sake of public health as well as our own.

  3. I survived eight days of ventilation/life support in Lismore Base Hospital. It, and the aftermath, was the most harrowing experience of my life, I am grateful for the dedicated care of medical staff, the fact that our government made it available to me and the eight years of life I have enjoyed since but it is one I do not wish to endue again.

  4. With all the many anti vaxxers in hospital tying up medical staff and equipment it will be tough on people in the Northern Rivers who need to access other types of medical intervention for other acute conditions like cancer for instance. There are few hospitals in this area and all will be overloaded with Covid patients as the virus spreads through the community and particularly in the un vaccinated. Already I have missed 2 x yearly heart checks as no hospital in Queensland will see me including the one that fixed my congenital heart defects and the nearest other hospital who can do the tests is in Newcastle. I only need tests to check all is still okay but there will be other people who will need life saving interventions and these will not be available or available as quickly as needed. People will quite likely die as the unvaccinated clog the already barely adequate local hospitals, maybe we should prioritise hospital beds for the vaccinated and leave the anti vaxxers to their choice for better or worse.

  5. Fantastic informative /factual information YET again Thanks to those amazing, genuine souls of The Echo . Obviously this factual information & some first hand experiences of the ICU ward are too confronting for some readers. However, their comments prove they can not help but read The Echo. Our community is damn lucky to have such a professional/ well respected independent newspaper. Many of my friends envy me, as I often send them emails or copies of articles in The Echo. Nimbin Times fantastic as well, 2 rare newspapers that ACTUALLY care about their local citizens.

    • Do they read the article or just look at the picture and assume it’s rubbish? Then contend that anything that doesn’t agree with their world view must be paying for its expression?


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